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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

8 May 2009 (afternoon)

For use of information media; not an official record

· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Viet Nam this afternoon, during which 60 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Malta, following the review of the country on Wednesday, 6 May.

· Presenting the national report of Viet Nam was PHAM BINH MINH, First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, who noted that the Government had established an inter-agency working group to prepare its national report for the UPR, in that regard consultations were held with dozens of organizations. Viet Nam had a consistent policy of respecting and guaranteeing human rights and had acceded to 18 conventions of the ILO and several other bilateral and multilateral conventions. The policy to respect human rights was rooted in Viet Nam’s history and culture of thousands of years. In Viet Nam there were 54 ethnic groups who have been living together. The State had been able to lead a process of comprehensive renewal with significant successes which were recognized by the international community. The human rights policy of Viet Nam was translated into laws and concrete polices which had bore positive results on the ground. Viet Nam attached great importance to the building of a comprehensive legal system to guarantee and promote human rights. The Constitution and legal normative documents clearly stipulated the rights and measures to guarantee civil and political human rights in the country in conformity with international human rights treaties. The National Assembly had the power of supreme oversight over all activities of the State. Viet Nam has been implementing the Master Plan on Administrative Reform in the 2001 to 2010 period.

The head of delegation recalled that the mass media had been growing rapidly in Viet Nam. At present there were 700 print press agencies with 850 publications, 68 TV and Radio stations and 80 on-line media magazines. Religious and belief activities were now a vibrant and enriching social feature as there were over 20 million followers of different religions. It was recalled that Viet Nam will host the World Buddhist Summit 2010. The ethnic minority of Viet Nam participated in an increasingly equal manner in the country’s socio-political life. Moreover, Viet Nam had attained significant achievements in promoting women’s rights against the indicators of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Viet Nam had also made significant progress, especially in the past years of renewal. The economy has continued to grow steadily over 7% per annum for over a decade. The United Nations has claimed that Viet Nam had attained or surpassed many of the MDGs and was capable of attaining all of them by 2015. In ethnic minority areas, the percentage of poor households had been reduced by an average of 3-5% per year.

The Vietnamese Government’s national UPR report has described in detail lessons drawn from achievements in protecting and promoting human rights and has underscored the close relationship between the protection of human rights and national independence and sovereignty, he stated. Viet Nam’s accomplishment in the area of human rights derived from the country’s foreign policy of openness and increasingly active participation in regional and international human rights mechanisms and activities, including those of the United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Council and the Asia-Europe Meeting. Viet Nam was currently working with other countries in the region to establish a human rights body of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). On the issue of Special Procedures, Viet Nam had recently extended invitations to five Special Procedures – on the right to food, extreme poverty, education, health and foreign debt. Viet Nam remained a poor country still having to cope with the aftermaths of war, including supporting the many victims of bombs, mines and Agent Orange/dioxin. The UPR report of Viet Nam identified a number of priorities for the near future. Viet Nam will continue to place high on its agenda poverty reduction, healthcare, development and social safety nets. Promotion and protection of human rights remained a matter of priority for the international community and for Viet Nam. The ultimate goal was to build a strong country with prosperous people and a just, democratic and advanced society.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included Viet Nam’s engagement with the international community on human rights; Viet Nam’s constructive role in the ASEAN process; increased school enrolment rates; advancements in promoting and protecting the rights of disabled persons; efforts to improve the situation of ethnic minorities; steps to rehabilitate those suffering from the consequences of the war, including land mine victims and Agent Orange; steps to mitigate the effects of natural disasters; the reform of the legal system; and steps to eliminate discrimination against women. Several States applauded Viet Nam for its poverty reduction strategy and the progress made in socio-economic development.

· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, policies underway or envisaged to overcome any obstacles in the advancement of human rights in the country; specific measures taken to alleviate poverty and unemployment, particularly in remote areas; specific measures being considered to ensure and enhance socio-cultural harmony among various ethnic and religious minorities; whether Viet Nam envisaged establishing a national system to receive, monitor and investigate complaints on child abuse and neglect; measures to address the situation of the increasing levels of child prostitution and sex tourism; steps to reduce the scope of application of the death penalty; whether Viet Nam was ready to consider a moratorium on executions and ultimately abolish the death penalty; and steps envisaged by the Judicial Reform Strategy 2020.

Other issues and questions pertained to how the State ensured that freedom of expression and media freedom were guaranteed; the position of Viet Nam on receiving the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression; plans to introduce a national action plan for the protection and promotion of human rights; plans to establish a national human rights institution; and whether Viet Nam was prepared to accept additional Special Rapporteurs, particularly those working in the area of civil and political rights.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: to continue to implement the poverty re-education strategy to further lower the rate of poverty; to further develop partnerships with the international community to assist developing countries to advance their economic and social rights; to implement credit-for-jobs projects and to promote labour market development; to continue with the socio-economic policy, in particular by providing safe drinking water in rural districts; to increase the use of ethnic languages; to develop a national strategy to include in the school system at all levels appropriate measures in the field of human rights education; to share best practices and experiences on how to achieve the MDGs; to take active measures to close the gap between the rich and poor; to consider acceding to the ILO Forced Labour Convention; to continue to help ethnic groups to raise awareness about their rights in order to improve their quality of living; to continue to advance the human rights of vulnerable people; to continue to improve the living conditions of disabled persons; to consider ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and to consider ratifying the Convention of the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families.

Furthermore, Viet Nam was encouraged to consider acceding to the Convention against Torture; to reduce the use of security laws that limited public discussion about multi-party democracy or criticism of the government; to register all individuals detained under security laws and make that information publicly available; to provide people detained under security or propaganda laws with fundamental legal safeguards, including representation by legal counsel; to reduce the length of prison sentences for non-violent crimes; to continue to improve the legal system; to speed up the law reform and public administration programmes aimed at deepening and broadening democratic norms, principles and standards; to consider acceding to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol; to continue judicial reforms measures; to strengthen efforts to fight against corruption; and to accede to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Other recommendations included: To review the list of crimes for which the death penalty was imposed; to take steps to ensure that all persons deprived of liberty are brought before a judge without delay; to revise the policy on the death penalty to bring it in line with international standards; to impose a moratorium on executions immediately, with the goal of abolishing the death penalty; to publish all information about the imposition and use of the death penalty; to abolish vague "national security" provisions; to provide public information on how many detention camps had been set up in the country and how many persons were detained in them; to improve the conditions of prisons; to repeal Ordinance 44 on Regulating Administrative Justice which authorizes administrative detention, house arrest, or detention in social protection centers and psychiatric facilities for two-year renewable periods, without trial; and to discontinue the practice of "people’s tribunals".

Another group of recommendations included: To make wider use through the media to promote awareness about gender equality; to cooperate with the international community to fight against human trafficking; to enhance women’s access to health care, in particular to sexual and reproductive health services; to take further action to enforce and implement the laws which had been passed in the areas of women’s rights; to ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking; to provide and expand human rights education for all relevant government authorities; to establish an independent human rights monitoring body; to extend a standing invitation to United Nations Special Procedures; and to consider establishing an independent national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles.

Viet Nam was also encouraged to increase the independence of media from the State, including by allowing privately-run media; to bring the press laws into compliance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to ensure that the media can operate freely and independently without restrictions; to adopt access-to-information legislation; to ensure that steps to respect freedom of expression, including on the Internet, were fully implemented; to engage substantively with international experts on the development of the media law; to adopt a whistle-blower law; to give individuals, groups and organs of society the legitimacy and recognition to promote human rights as well as to express their opinions or dissent publicly; and to adopt appropriate measures to disseminate widely and ensure full observance of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Additionally, participating States encouraged Viet Nam to continue efforts to guarantee religious freedom; to re-engage with the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion and belief; to recognize the UBCV [International Buddhist Information Bureau] and allow it to function independently of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha; to allow individuals to speak out on the political system; to release all prisoners of conscience, such as Father Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Van Dai, and Le Thi Cong Nhan; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; and to ratify the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the Russian Federation, the Philippines, Cuba, Canada, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Japan, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Germany, India, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Argentina, South Africa, France, Italy, Mauritius, Chile, Pakistan and Burkina Faso.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Venezuela, Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Singapore, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Norway, Iran, Sweden, Benin, Australia, Yemen, Cambodia, Libya, Sri Lanka, Syria, New Zealand, Austria, Finland, Turkey, the United States, Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Lebanon, Poland, Brunei Darussalam, Palestine, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Belarus.

· The 29-person delegation of Viet Nam consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Committee on External Information, the Domestic Affairs Department, the Ministry of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Information and Telecommunication, the Ministry of Justice, the National Policy Department, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the People’s Supreme Court, the Ministry of Public Security, the Lawyers’ Association of Viet Nam, Viet Nam’s Press Association and Permanent Mission of Viet Nam to the United Nations Office in Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Viet Nam are Burkina Faso, Japan and Canada.

· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Viet Nam can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Malta: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on the Malta are Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Egypt. Introducing the report ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia), after thanking the delegation of Malta for the constructive role they played during their UPR, said the troika was of the view that the report accurately reflected the spirit of the discussions that took place during the interactive dialogue on 6 May. Representing the State under review, PETER GRECH, Deputy Attorney-General, said his country would consider and respond to all the recommendations posed in the report. In particular, Malta would actively pursue the procedures for ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Moreover, Malta would not accept the recommendations regarding the legalization of abortion nor on same-sex marriages.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Viet Nam on Tuesday, 12 May.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work on Friday morning at 9 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Uruguay after which it is scheduled to adopt the report on New Zealand. 

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.

To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp

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